Amanda Edmiston Botanica fabula: Posted on 26 November 2015 21:04
|The River Clyde…doesn’t immediately conjure up images of mermaids.
But, according to fragments of lore, it was once home to merfolk, are at least there’s a scale or two of evidence of at least one.
But it seems to be very hard to find more than those few scales of the story of the mermaid of the Clyde, all there seems to be are the famous words she uttered, there is no back story, no explanation.
She is reputed to have said ‘If they wad drink Nettles in March and eat Muggins in May sae many braw maidens wadna gang to clay’.
Nettles and Muggins, or Mugwort, as it’s more commonly known these days are both hugely rich in minerals, fantastic herbs at the right times of year to enrich the diet, Mugwort is also a great herb for regulating the menstrual cycle and bringing forth babies when they’re due, which may also be a consideration behind her words.
This was one of the first stories I ‘mended’ a tiny intriguing snippet of herbal wisdom uttered by a mermaid who it was claimed lived in Glasgow’s mighty river, before it was dredged for ship-building…weaving together broken snippets of story, creating new words to encase shards lost, adrift from their tales is the main part of my writing.
Some stories like this one leap out at me, quickly forming a new fabric on which to rest a beautiful old piece of tapestry, they are mine, but also a bit more.
I’m hoping to bring them all together in a volume in the near future, but for now I’d like to share my tale of The Mermaid of the Clyde
I recorded this a while ago but please do click here if you’d like to hear me storytell:
There was a time so the Daoine Sìth on the mountains claimed when the Merrow and their cousins the Salmon tailed Ceasg, lived free of worries in the sea lochs and wintered on the silt strewn banks of the Clyde. But although their kind could take on the human form and wander amongst the legged ones, and legend had it they felt empathy and kindred fondness for the women and girls, they all too often found the earthbound folk to be aggressive and loud.
As the focus of mans attentions became money and manufacture the merfolk began to drift to deeper water.
Till only one Merrow woman remained by the Clydes tidal flow. She watched as the dear green place she treasured turned to dirt and greed, till the young women she sought to help heard her sing no more.
As industry gained momentum and tenements, back to back, dark and moist covered the meadows.
As the shipyards called for the river to be dredged.
As the banks were clawed and the forests burnt.
As the young women of Glasgow began to live foreshortened lives.
No where could they find the iron rich greens they needed to bring riches to the body, now only iron filled yards brought riches to the few.
The mermaid despaired; times had changed, this was no longer a world in which she was welcome, before one last tail flick took her away from this dark heat arced world she uttered ‘if they ate Nettles in March and Mugworts in May not so many good maidens would have gone to the clay.
The words floated on the river as the tide washed in and drifted out, as the moon pulled the water away, and as soft as the foam itself and with a flick of her tail she was never seen again.
As we gather nettles in our dock covered hands and inhale the Mugworts bitter aroma as Summer approaches, we hope she swims well nourished now in beds of Kelp midst the briny depths.(c) Amanda Edmiston2012
It’s the first of several mermaid stories I’ve written and came long before I first saw this beauty who lives in Linlithgow Palace, the birth-place of The Mermaid Queen (but that’s another story). However I thought I’d share the photo because I found out the day I first saw her that mermaids used to symbolise eloquence…as a story-teller a nice note to finish on!
The other two pictures in this blog are taken of the same part of the river Kelvin where it feeds into the Clyde and are part of a collection of pictures and words I made with my daughter for Hold Me Dear and can be found here: http://www.holdmedear.co.uk/#!dear-green-place/c8he
(c) Amanda Edmiston 2012